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5 tips for beginning a modernization project on your dairy

Christina Winch for Progressive Dairyman Published on 04 February 2019

In June 2017, we embarked on what was going to be a roller-coaster ride for the next 16 months. It was that summer our dairy equipment company representative took the family on our first tour of robotic milking barns. We had started on the journey to modernize our dairy. As we went through the planning and construction, we learned many things. I want to share with you some of the things that we learned.

1. Do your research and take good notes. There are many different ways you can research what you are planning for your dairy. These can include taking tours, talking to farmers, visiting with your extension agent and following Facebook groups. We had a spiral notebook where we took notes on everything we researched. Those notes included things we liked and disliked, pieces of advice, contact information and more.

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2. Don’t rush into it. One of the first things we did before we started serious research was to sit down with our banker to see if this was even possible from a financial standpoint. I recall our banker thanking us for starting with them and giving them plenty of opportunity to help us make this work. He said it is challenging to work with people who come in, ask for the money and say we are breaking ground next week. We spent months planning, drawing, making changes and taking our time to get what we wanted.

3. Make sure your finances are strong. Balance sheet, cost of production, farm financial ratios – those are all scary but important words. If they are not where you want them to be moving into a project, work with your banker and accountant to set goals to help get you there.

4. Know your limits. Know what you can afford, how many cows you want to build for, and stay within those limits. This may mean making cuts along the way as you are planning. I wanted a larger room for hosting tours and educational sessions. I got my room, but not the size I wanted. If your budget is a certain amount, try to stay within it. Knowing your limits will only be beneficial in the long run.

5. Listen to the experts, but make it your own. As we were sitting down drawing the new facility out, the experts were making all kinds of suggestions. Some we agreed with and some we did not. We explained what we wanted, and we worked with them to make it a reality. No one knows your family, cows and employees better than you do. You are the ones who will be working and living in the barn, so make it your own.

I am happy to say that we completed our modernization project in October and started the robots up on Oct. 22, 2018. Three months in, things are going well, and we are happy with the decisions we made. Most farms will go through some sort of construction project in their lifetime, and I hope that the things we learned will be beneficial to others.  end mark

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Christina Winch
  • Christina Winch

  • Dairy Producer
  • Fennimore, Wisconsin
  • Email Christina Winch

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